On October 20, a Canadian man was sentenced to 174 months in U.S. federal prison for leading a drug-trafficking organization that planned to ship hundreds of pounds of cocaine and heroin from Southern California into Canada, as well as import MDMA into the United States.
In March, a federal jury found Vincent Yen Tek Chiu, 44, of Vancouver, Canada, guilty of one count of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, one count of conspiracy to export controlled substances, one count of distribution of cocaine, one count of distribution of heroin, and one count of distribution of MDMA.
It was established that Chiu obtained multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine, and sometimes heroin, in Los Angeles and passed the narcotics to couriers who intended to transport them to Canada for further distribution. Moreover, big-rig trucks and encrypted telephones were used in attempts to export some of the cocaine into Canada.
It was also found that Chiu arranged the purchase of bulk quantities of cocaine in the United States for importation into Canada in exchange for cash or bulk quantities of MDMA, and organized the transportation of MDMA from Canada into the United States in exchange for cocaine. Finally, Chiu and members of his drug ring also used modified cellular devices with military-grade, end-to-end encryption to communicate regarding the logistics of their operations.
At his sentencing hearing, the court determined that Chiu was involved in distributing 77 kilograms (169.7 pounds) of cocaine, 8 kilograms of heroin, and 24 kilograms of MDMA with a wholesale value of more than $3 million. Furthermore, federal agents intercepted several drug deliveries in 2018 and 2019, when over $800,000 in Canadian currency was seized during this investigation.
The investigation was carried out by the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Moreover, support was provided by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the California Highway Patrol, and the West Covina Police Department.
“[Chiu] controlled every aspect of his lucrative and high-volume business: setting up the wholesale drug purchases and dictating the terms and price; managing the financials, including sending invoices for the product and orchestrating the money dropoffs; directing others to conduct quality testing of the product to ensure that it was ‘high heat,’ which was the type of cocaine he demanded; and arranging long-haul semi-trucks to transport the drug loads across the United States and into Canada,” the sentencing memorandum states.
Other members of the drug ring have also received prison sentences, including Anthony Louis Lam, 37, of Vancouver, Canada, who is now serving four years in federal prison; Henry Liu, 33, of Rosemead, who is serving a 10-year prison sentence; Christian Raul Gastelum-Sanchez, 27, of Los Angeles, who is now serving five years in federal prison; Raul Arturo Gastelum-Benitez, 54, of Los Angeles, who is now serving four years in federal prison; and Khonsavanh Vorachack, 62, of Sacramento, California, who now serving three years in federal prison. Each defendant pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances.